Katherine Addison returns to the glittering world she created for her beloved novel, The Goblin Emperor, in this stand-alone sequel.
When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.
Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.
Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.
Katherine Addison has created a fantastic world for these books – wide and deep and true.
I LOVED this book so much. On the surface it’s a murder mystery, or rather several murder mysteries, but really it’s a study of Thara Celehar. And Thara Celehar is SO relatable. He is humble and honest and prefers helping the commoners who petition him to involving himself in the politics he nevertheless gets drawn into. He has a deep-seated belief that he is somehow less worthy than others, and in some ways he is serving penance for what he perceives to be wrongs from his past. That most people wouldn’t see them as wrongs doesn’t matter, because he does. He cares for people and goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone, expecting nothing in return. Much as Maia was humble, honest, and hopeful in the Goblin Emperor, Celehar is humble and honest, though not hopeful. He is rather a pessimist.
I loved the journey of it, the way the story meandered from mystery to mystery, as Celehar followed his calling to help anyone who asked it of him. Along the way he finds several unexpected friends and people who obviously care for him, though he seems unable to believe it.
It is satisfying, in a way, to see all of these people who clearly value him, as the reader must value him after following him through his journey, and at the same time him not value himself. I hope that many good things are in store for Celehar, and I hope we get to continue on his journey to accept that maybe he’s not as terrible as he thinks he must be.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Tor-Forge for providing an e-arc for review.